Spring rains — five inches in Norman over the past week — have restored Lake Thunderbird to normal. Now water levels are edging into the lake’s flood pool.
“There’s no need to panic over getting a little more water in the reservoir,” said Russ Adkins, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spokesman.
The Corps of Engineers makes decisions regarding flood control and the release of waters from Thunderbird.
“We have to look at it (the lake) as a system,” Adkins said. “If we’re going to get more rains, we can’t let the pool get too full.”
While the National Weather Service reports a flash flood watch through early morning hours today, rain chances were reduced Wednesday from earlier predictions. Partly cloudy skies and 20 percent chance of thunderstorms this morning should give way to a high in the upper 70’s. Fair skies are predicted for tonight.
Adkins said the Corps is not worried about Thunderbird at this time but will monitor the lake level closely through the next few days if rains continue. The lake is meant to hold water and prevent flooding downstream, and is operating as intended.
The flood gates of Norman Dam haven’t been opened in three years. This winter, Lake Thunderbird’s conservation pool was down more than seven feet.
“We’ve got a lot of capacity to store additional rainfall,” said Randy Worden, district manager of the Central Oklahoma Master Conservancy District. “We’ll open them when the Corps of Engineers asks us to open them.”
Whether flood gates are opened depends on circumstances downstream and upstream, as well as anticipated rainfall, Worden said. The Corps also determines how wide to open the gates, which controls how quickly water is released.
“We’d like to carry additional water this summer if possible, but the Corps has to make that determination,” Worden said. “It would help the fisheries and give us more comfort to carry additional water.”